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Articles from 2015 In June

Central Valley agricultural production leads the world
<p>California&#39;s Central Valley produces over 350 different crops for consumption by global markets.</p>

Picking numbers and random thoughts

Today I wrote down on the white board I use for planning purposes what I think NASS will come out with tomorrow when the objective almond forecast is released.

No… I’m not going to publish it just yet. I will truthfully reveal my guess in a future blog. You’ll just have to trust me.

Blue Diamond Almonds is reporting hull split as five-to-seven days ahead of last year. For those of you keeping track, hull split this year was seen the first week of June. It sure seems like the gap between pollination and hull split has closed the last couple years as harvest also looks to be ahead of last year’s early schedule, which was also ahead of normal.

Water is the key factor now. Time will tell how the absence of water for almond growers impacts their crop.

Random thoughts:

Speaking of water, curtailment orders (or as state attorneys call them in open court: “courtesy notices”) now extend into the mid-19th Century.

When does God receive His curtailment notice?

Getting back to my prognostications, the two California counties that tend to draw the most attention when crop reports are issued each year – Tulare and Fresno – should be released in August. As to who goes first is up for grabs. Last year Tulare County announced a week ahead of Fresno County.

If Kings County’s record report is any indication then it could be a banner year as well for Tulare County. Dairy production leads Kings and Tulare counties by a large margin and for those of us who pay attention, milk prices were at record highs throughout the entire year of 2014.

Going into last year’s public meeting where Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Marilyn Kinoshita released her report to county supervisors, she attempted to get me to predict the total number prior to handing me a copy of her report. I was low.

It's entertaining to watch Tulare and Fresno trade bragging rights over which county is number one since that flag on the mountain has changed several times in the past decade. Of the several events in the past year I’ve heard, the chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors speak he has not missed an opportunity to wave that flag.

As with the almond forecast, I’ve written down numbers on my white board to reflect what I think the new numbers will be this year. I may share them with you after they’re made public, along with my thoughts behind my choices. I tried to use some quick logic based on a little bit of experience and a gut feeling.

Trust me: I have no inside-information.

In time we will all find out in time how close I was.

In the meantime, the personal challenge will be to not over-think my predictions and change them several times.

Cover crops, specialty crops focus of Women in Farming workshop

Cover crops, specialty crops focus of Women in Farming workshop

Women who are engaged in farming will have a chance to learn more about their vocation, share stories, information and ideas with other female farmers and tour a no-till farm during the fourth "Women in Farming" workshop and farm tour at Emporia on Saturday, July 11.

The workshop, conducted by the Kansas Rural Center, will begin at 9 a.m. and run to 5 p.m. It will focus on soil health and cover crops, grazing management and specialty crop production. It will be held at the Flint Hills Technical College in Emporia with a farm tour of the Gail Fuller farm.

COVER CROPS: The value of cover crops will be part of the information at the Women in Farmiing workshop at Emporia on July 11.

The workshop will include a presentation on the importance of building soil health and the value of cover crops by Candace Thomas and Alex Miller from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Dale Kirkham, grass and grazing specialist, will talk about Livestock and Grazing Management Practices. Eric Guenther, Farm Services Agency, will discuss loan programs and resources of special interest to women, and Dan Phelps, KRC staff member, specialty crop grower and primary’s 2014 “Growing Under Cover” publication, will present on Specialty Crop Production in High Tunnels.

In addition, materials on USDA NRCS conservation programs, and other resources on crop insurance, organic and specialty crop production practices and resources, will be available.

At 2 p.m., the workshop will move to Gail Fuller’s farm for a farm tour and presentation on carbon farming as part of a no-till cover crop system, crop rotations, and small livestock enterprises recently adopted.

Dale Kirkham will also be on hand to host a Native Prairie and Grass tour to close out the day.

Register for the workshop and farm tour.  Fees are $15/per person, to cover lunch and snacks. 

In conjunction with the Women in Farming workshop and farm tour, KRC will host an informal, pre-workshop  roundtable discussion and social hour on Friday, July 10, from 7:30 – 9:30 pm, at the Guesthouse Inn and Conference Center in Emporia, Kansas.


This will provide participants with an opportunity to share their farming stories, information, experiences, and good company with other women farmers.  Light snacks will be provided; and tea, wine and beer will be available. The roundtable is free.

The following special guests will make up the roundtable panel:
• Lucinda Stuenkel, No till cover crop and livestock farmer, Palmer
• Rhonda Janke, KSU Horticultural Department and market garden/sheep farmer, Wamego
• Judy Decker, Grassfed beef farmer, Emporia
• Lynette Miller, small livestock/specialty crop farmer, Emporia
• Mandy Kern, specialty crop & CSA farmer, Emporia
• Mary Fund, KRC Executive Director and certified organic farmer, Goff

.If you plan to stay overnight, KRC has reserved a block of rooms at the Guesthouse Inn and Conference Center for the convenience of attendees: 620-341-9199. Room rates are $59 plus tax. Continental breakfast provided. Just tell the desk that you are with the Kansas Rural Center and the women in farming workshop.

For more information, e-mail Joanna Voigt at, or call 866-579-5469.

Iowa extends disaster proclamation for bird flu

Iowa extends disaster proclamation for bird flu

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad on June 29 announced that he is extending the State of Disaster Emergency in response to the avian flu outbreak through July 31, 2015. This is the second extension the governor has made to the original disaster proclamation. The governor's original disaster declaration was set to expire Sunday, May 31, 2015, but he extended it until July 1, 2015, taking that action on May 29, 2015. The latest disaster proclamation can be read here.

EMERGENCY EXTENDED: Iowa governor has extended a state of disaster emergency through July 31 in response to the bird flu outbreak that has killed millions of chickens and turkeys in the state this spring.

The extension comes less than two weeks after Branstad requested a Presidential Disaster Designation for four Iowa counties hit by the virus. In bipartisan fashion, members of Iowa's Congressional Delegation wrote a letter to President Obama encouraging him to grant the governor's request on June 19, 2015. The virus has infected many poultry flocks resulting in the death of more than 31.5 million birds in Iowa, mostly egg-laying chickens, making the state the hardest-hit in the nation.

Iowa's proclamation of disaster emergency does the following:
Activates the disaster response and recovery aspect of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department's (HSEMD) Iowa Emergency Response Plan.

Authorizes the use and deployment of all available state resources, supplies, equipment, and materials as are deemed reasonably necessary by the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS) and Iowa HSEMD in order to do the following:

1. Track and monitor instances of confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza  throughout the state of Iowa and the country

2. Establish importation restrictions and prohibitions in respect to animals suspected of suffering from this disease

3. Rapidly detect any presumptive or confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza within Iowa's borders 

4. Contain the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within our state through depopulation, disinfections, and disposal of livestock carcasses

5. Engage in detection activities, contact tracking, and other investigatory work to stop the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within our state

6. Eliminate the disease in those disaster counties where it has been found and lessen the risk of this disease spreading to our state as a whole.


The proclamation extension by Gov. Branstad also temporarily authorizes the Iowa HSEMD, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), other state agencies, and local law enforcement agencies and private contractors employed by the same to remove and/or dispose of live animals and animal carcasses on publicly or privately owned land when those live animals and/or carcasses threaten public health or safety.

It authorizes the Iowa HSEMD, the Iowa DOT, the Iowa DPS, the Iowa DNR, IDPH, other state agencies, and local law enforcement agencies to implement stop movement and stop loading restrictions and other control zone measures as are reasonably deemed necessary, including establishing buffer zones, checkpoints, and cleaning and disinfecting operations at checkpoints and borders surrounding any quarantine areas established by the IDALS or at any other location in the state of Iowa, in order to stop the spread of this contagious disease.

It authorizes state agencies to assist the IDALS in disinfection, depopulation, and livestock carcass disposal efforts.

It temporarily waives restrictions to allow for the timely and efficient disposal of poultry carcasses.

It temporarily suspends the regulatory provisions pertaining to hours of service for commercial vehicle drivers hauling poultry carcasses infected with or exposed to highly pathogenic avian influenza or while hauling loads otherwise related to the response to this disaster during its duration, subject to certain conditions outlined in the disaster proclamation.

Updated information on the avian influenza situation in Iowa is posted at the Iowa Department of Agriculture's website
More Iowa fields reeling from too much rain

More Iowa fields reeling from too much rain

Between 3 and 7 inches of rain fell across Iowa from Wednesday night June 24 to Thursday morning June 25, causing localized flooding in the Des Moines area. Dumping that much rain on already saturated soils after wet weather in previous weeks, the continuing rainfall pattern is threatening crop yields, especially in southern parts of the state, say farmers and agronomists.

SOGGY FIELDS: In central Iowa and some other parts of the state crops are swimming as a result of recent downpours. Southwest and south central Iowa farmers have begun to file prevented plantings for acreage that hasn't been planted.

In some areas the soil has been too wet for farmers to finish planting soybeans, putting them close to crop insurance deadlines for getting seed planted. Even before last week's downpours, farmers had been coping with a high number of rainy days this growing season. "It wasn't that they had heavy rains. It was just that it rained so frequently in June the fields never really had a chance to dry out," says Mark Licht, an Iowa State University Extension agronomist.

Iowa could still have good crop, but likely not record yields
Not only does wet soil keep farmers out of fields, the extra water also keeps plants from taking up the oxygen and nitrogen they need, particularly soybeans. While it's too early to tell how the 2015 harvest will turn out, it's already clear it won't be another record year like Iowa had in 2014, says Grant Kimberley, director of market development for the Iowa Soybean Association. He also farms with his father in Polk County in central Iowa. There's a lot of truth in the saying—"beans don't like wet feet," he notes. "We could still have good production in 2015, but we're not going to have record yields."

Crop insurance policies will cover only those beans planted by early July, as late-planted crops have less-than-optimum yield potential. By taking the "prevent planting" option, farmers can forgo planting and not have the expense of planting, and they can accept 60% of their original crop insurance guarantee under certain policies.

Iowa's 2015 corn crop still rates 83% good-to-excellent
Despite storms and continued rainy weather, 83% of the state's corn crop was rated good to excellent as of June 28. Soybean condition rated 78% good to excellent, according to USDA's weekly crop conditions survey.


"The strong storms and heavy rains that rolled through Iowa last week have stressed crops, flooded some fields and limited farmers' ability to get needed work done," notes Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "Spraying weeds, side-dressing fertilizer, making hay and other activities were all slowed by the wet weather. Some farmers in Southwest and South Central Iowa may be forced to take prevented-planting coverage on some fields they will not be able to plant before July 1."

The complete weekly Iowa Crops & Weather Report is available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship website or on USDA's site at The report summary follows here:

Severe weather took a toll on some areas of Iowa last week
CROP REPORT: Severe weather rolled through Iowa last week. High winds, isolated hail, and plenty of rain occurred during the week ending June 28, according to USDA's National Ag Statistics Service. Statewide there were 3.0 days suitable for fieldwork. Activities for the week included cutting hay, herbicide and fungicide application, and some nitrogen side dressing. Excessive moisture is stressing some crops, causing small drowned-out areas, and preventing farmers from controlling weeds.

Topsoil moisture levels rated to zero percent very short, 1% short, 68% adequate and 31% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated zero percent very short, 2% short, 72% adequate and 26% surplus.

Southwest, south central Iowa farmers file for prevented plantings
In southwest and south central Iowa, farmers have begun to file "prevented planting" for any remaining corn and soybean acreage. Eighty-three percent of the state's corn crop was rated good to excellent as of June 28. Soybean emergence reached 96%, 11 days behind 2014. Soybean condition rated 78% good to excellent this week. With 90% of the oat crop headed or beyond, conditions declined slightly to 81% good to excellent.

Hay condition fell to 70% good to excellent this week due to wet conditions. The first cutting of alfalfa hay reached 83% complete. The second cutting reached 9%, one week behind average. Pasture condition rated 81% good to excellent. Muddy feedlots and increased insect pressure elevated livestock stress levels.


By Harry Hillaker, State Climatologist, Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship

Iowa endured a very wet and stormy week, for the seven days ending June 28. Thunderstorms were widespread on Monday (June 22), Wednesday (June 24) into Thursday (June 25) morning, Friday (June 26) and over eastern Iowa on Sunday (June 28). High winds raked much of northern Iowa on Monday (June 22) morning, with additional severe storms over south central Iowa on Monday afternoon. Hail and high winds were also reported over parts of southwest, south central and east central Iowa on Wednesday (June 24).

Heavy rains and flooding hit portions of central, south central Iowa
Torrential rains fell over portions of central and south central Iowa on Wednesday night with widespread flooding. However, parts of northwest and southwest Iowa saw only light amounts of rain with Sidney and Shenandoah recording only sprinkles. On the other end of the spectrum Waukee reported 7.98 inches of rain. The statewide average precipitation total was 2.13 inches, or nearly double the weekly normal of 1.17 inches.

Meanwhile temperatures averaged from one degree above normal over southwest Iowa to three degrees above normal over the northeast with a statewide average of 2 degrees subnormal. Temperature extremes varied from a Wednesday afternoon high of 94 degrees at Clarinda to a Tuesday morning low of 51 degrees at Elkader.

Overholt honored with Outstanding Guernsey Youth Award

Overholt honored with Outstanding Guernsey Youth Award

Marshall Overholt of Big Prairie, Ohio is this year's recipient of the American Guernsey Association's National Outstanding Youth Award. The award was presented June 19 as part of the National Guernsey Convention and 139th Annual Meeting in Walnut Creek, Ohio.

Overholt is the 21-year-old son of Sue Overholt. He is active on Springhill Farm, owned by the Lang family, where he has worked since his junior year of high school. Overholt recently obtained an Associate Degree at the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Dairy Production and Management.

Marshall Overholt recently earned the American Guernsey Association's National Outstanding Youth Award. Photo by Purebred Publishing.

Overholt has long been involved in raising and exhibiting livestock. During his 10 years of 4-H, he exhibited three species at the Ohio State Fair and 10 different animal projects at his county fair. His involvement in 4-H, FFA, numerous sports and other high school activities, as well as his commitment to the Guernsey cow earned him this achievement.

In his future, Overholt hopes to continue to work at Springhill and help the herd improve. "I want to establish a foundation for the future and pave a road that will incorporate both the farm and my family. I hope that someday I will be able to be part of a farm that is recognized as one of the best herds in the world," he says.

Source: American Guernsey Association
Farmland prices down 10-20% from highs

Farmland prices down 10-20% from highs

Land sales in North Dakota, eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota have remained strong this past year, according to Terry Longtin, Farmers National Company vice president and area sales manager in Grand Forks, N.D.

While prices are down 10 to 20% from a couple of years ago, land prices are still excellent when looking back over the past 10 years, Longtin says.

Sellers can expect to see notable buyer interest in their land, as long as it is priced right. Land prices are down though, mainly due to reduced commodity values in the past two years. However, land prices have gone down substantially less than the drop in commodity prices.

Farmland prices in North Dakota and South Dakota are down 10-20%.

There is a trend towards more private listings vs. versus auctions as compared to a year ago in the northern two-thirds of the region. Auctions have seen little success lately, as buyers prefer a behind-the-scenes purchase instead of bidding against their neighbor in a public forum, Longtin says.

"We see more buyer competition in the southern end of the region and auctions are working well there," he said.

Top quality land in South Dakota is drawing up to $8,000 per acre, while North Dakota's land prices are coming in at $6,800 and Minnesota at $9,000 per acre. 

Pivotal year
Nationally it may a may be a pivotal year for farmland prices, according to Randy Dickhut, vice-president of real estate operations for Farmers National Company.


If farm and ranch income is low this year, it could impact the land market for several years, he says.

Current buyers are predominantly active farmers and ranchers adding land to their operations. If they aren't in the market in the future, land prices could remain flat or soften further.

However, interest from investment funds and individuals is on the rise, Dickhut says.

"With the softening of land values, some investors are looking at this as an opportune time to buy. Land is considered a low risk long-term investment, so we will see these types of buyers jumping into the land market more and more over the next several years."

Long-term economic trends look positive for land prices. Demand for feed grains and protein sources by China and other world markets remain strong. "Demand for our products creates a positive outlook," Dickhut says. "Any adjustments to values and sales activity are likely to be slow and steady so the impact won't be overwhelming."

National Company currently manages more than 4,850 farms in 24 states comprising over 2 million acres. The company has sold over 3,700 farms and more than $2.65 billion of real estate during the last five years.

Source: Farmers National Company

Ten Outstanding Sophomores recognized by WALSAA at UW-Madison

Ten Outstanding Sophomores recognized by WALSAA at UW-Madison

The Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association recently continued its proud tradition of promoting student excellence at UW–Madison. After 75 submitted applications, the WALSAA scholarship committee narrowed down its search for the top 10 Outstanding Sophomores through a rigorous prescreening process that focused equally on academic achievement, campus involvement/leadership, community service, and relevant experience. From these 75 applicants, 20 were selected to interview in front of a panel of three WALSAA board members.Ten final awardees were selected based on interview performance.

Ten final awardees were selected based on interview performance.

"In just two years of college, these students are involved in so many things on and off campus," said Robb Bender, cochairman of the scholarship committee. "It's difficult to choose just 10 students, and we try to make the process a learning experience – for all applicants."

Winners of the Outstanding Sophomore Award include: McKenzie Rowley, Loyal, Life Sciences communications; Ryan Rebernick, Caledonia, biochemistry; Kelly Wilfert, Two Rivers, ag and applied economics; Sydney Endres, Lodi, dairy science/Life Sciences communications; Elizabeth Endres, Waunakee, dairy science; Samantha Miller, Oconomowoc, neurobiology; Siddak Kanwar, Rochester, Minn., Life Sciences communications; Alexa Roscizewski, Eagle, animal science; Sara Harn, Brooklyn, dairy science; and Courtney McCourt, St. Cloud, dairy science.

Source: WALSAA

Illinois soybean field days focus on higher yields

Illinois soybean field days focus on higher yields

The Illinois Soybean Association will host a series of ILSoyAdvisor Field Days at three regional locations this summer.

Local agronomists will join farmers and industry representatives to discuss best practices for high-yielding soybeans at the following dates and locations:
•Northern region: Aug. 4, Hinckley, Ill.
•Central region: Aug. 5, Villa Grove, Ill.
•Southern region: Aug. 6, Benton, Ill.

Illinois soybean field days focus on higher yields

"If you grow soybeans, you can't afford to miss these events," says Don Guinnip, soybean farmer from Marshall, Ill., and ISA Production Committee chair.  "These field days will take the great information from our blog directly out to growers in their local areas where they can see firsthand how to increase yields and maximize profits."

Funded by the Illinois soybean checkoff, each event will offer advice from agronomy experts, with presentations and hands-on demonstrations about producing higher-yielding soybeans and increasing soybean profits.  Topics include:
•Foliar Feeding: A Mid-Season Strategy
•Adjuvants: Making Your Foliar Applications Work
•UAVs: Your Eyes in the Sky
•Going for 100: Achieving High-Yield Soybeans
•Getting Soybeans off to a Good Start
•Key to Higher Double-Crop Soybean Yields (Benton location only)

In addition, attendees will learn more about the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS), which is expected to be released this summer.  Dan Schaefer, director of nutrient stewardship, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, will provide an overview of NLRS and discuss ways growers can address nutrient loss on their farms.


"ISA is committed to helping our state's soybean farmers be more successful, competitive and profitable," says Linda Kull, ISA director of strategic research programs.  "Last year we launched to provide timely, practical tips for increasing yields and profitability.  This year our directors want to take those efforts into the field.  We're excited to share best practices and interact directly with a broader audience of farmers."

All events will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude by 3 p.m.  Field days are free and include lunch and refreshments.  CEU credits are available for attending CCAs.

For detailed information on the events and to RSVP, visit the ILSoyAdvisor Field Days webpage at  Pre-event registration is encouraged, but not mandatory.

Source: Illinois Soybean Association

Market hog inventory is up 13% from last year

Market hog inventory is up 13% from last year

Michigan's total hog and pig inventory on June 1 was estimated at 1.1 million head, up 110,000 head from a year ago, according  to  the  USDA,  NASS,  Great  Lakes  Regional  Field  Office.  Breeding  hog  inventory,  at  110,000  head,  was unchanged from last June. Market hog inventory, at 990,000 head, was up 13% from last year. The average pigs saved per litter for the March to May quarter at 10.70 was up 1.80 pigs from last year. 

Market hog inventory is up 13% from last year.

United States inventory of all hogs and pigs on June 1, was 66.9 million head. This was up 9% from June 1, 2014, and up slightly from March 1. Breeding inventory, at 5.93 million head, was up 1% from last year, but down 1% from the previous quarter. Market hog inventory, at 61 million head, was up 9% from last year, and up 1% from last quarter. 

The March-May 2015 pig crop, at 29.6 million head, was up 8% from 2014. Sows farrowed during this period totaled 2.85 million head, up 1% from 2014. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 48% of the breeding herd. The average pigs saved per litter was a record high 10.37 for the March-May period, compared to 9.78 last year. Pigs saved per litter by size of operation ranged from 8.00 for operations with 1-99 hogs and pigs to 10.40 for operations with more than 5,000 hogs and pigs.

United States hog producers intend to have 2.91 million sows farrow during the June-August 2015 quarter, down 3% from the actual farrowings during the same period in 2014, but up 1% from 2013. Intended farrowings for September-November 2015, at 2.87 million sows, are down 4% from 2014, but up 3% from 2013.

MDA funds nutrient research, ag BMP handbook update

MDA funds nutrient research, ag BMP handbook update

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced three new projects funded through its 2015 Clean Water Fund Request for Proposals.

They are:

MDA funds nutrient research, ag BMP handbook update

•Assessment of rate and timing of phosphorus application in corn-soybean rotations on the potential for phosphorus loss to surface waters and tile. Project Leader: Daniel Kaiser, University of Minnesota, Soil, Water and Climate; $224,773; start date: 4/15/2015, end date: 6/30/2018. This study will include laboratory, field and greenhouse conducted research to: evaluate how rate and timing of phosphorus (P) application in a 2-year corn-soybean rotation affects P loss (soluble and bio-available) for different soil types; study the impact of phosphorus fertilizer management on the enrichment/depletion of soil P from soil depths greater than 6 inches using traditional soil test methods; determine the effect of P fertilizer application on the potential for P leaching indifferent soils; Study the impacts of long-term P management on the amount of P that can be sorbed to surface (0-6 inches) and sub-surface soils (6-12 inches); correlate the Haney H3A soil extract to corn and soybean response to P; and determine if chelates could be utilized to increase P availability to crops.

•Measuring and modeling watershed phosphorus loss and transport for improved management of agricultural landscapes. Project Leader: Jacques Finlay, University of Minnesota, Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. $297,419; start date: 6/15/2015, end date: 6/30/2018. This study will evaluate sources and environmental controls of phosphorus mobilization from the landscape, focusing on soluble P, and to use this information in computer models to inform strategies for basin-wide P reduction. Reductions could be realized by implementation of BMPs and conservation practices targeting either direct dissolved P or particulate P effluent from agricultural fields, or indirect P loads due to remobilization of stored P through changes in discharge, sediment supply or P form (dissolved vs. particulate).

•Agricultural Best Management Practices handbook for Minnesota update. Project Leader: Chris Lenhart, University of Minnesota, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; $65,600; start date: 5/1/2015, end date: 12/31/2016. The overall goal of the project is to update the 2012 Minnesota Agricultural BMP Handbook to incorporate new data and expand the list of conservation practices. This is critical for establishing realistic estimates of the benefits of best management practice implementation. The updated handbook will include a definition for each BMP; estimates of the effectiveness of each practice based on existing literature; costs and other economic considerations for each BMP; and potential barriers to BMP adoption.

A total of 11 projects were submitted totaling $2.25 million in requested funds. The evaluation committee recommended the top three projects to be funded this year. All projects started this spring.